kNow Access 2018-2019

A large drawing of written text taken from the Bodies in Translation Guiding Principles
A graphic recording of Bodies in Translation’s Principles of Governance & Engagement by Devon Kerslake.

These are the frameworks that all BIT partners (researchers, staff, educators, artists, and collaborators of all kinds) are invited to enact in our work together. These values may be enacted in different ways and by following unique mandates, operating models, activisms, and art practices. They are not intended to be directives, rather they provide the framing and overarching values and commitments as well as offer some suggestions for translating these into action.

Read the guiding principles here:

Watch the graphic recording of our Principles of Governance and Engagement in motion! Full video: 
Audio described version:

Trajectories of Access  /  Deaf and Disability Futures  /  Embodying the Intersections  /   Resources

Trajectories of Access


“My sense is that what’s at stake here is really a rethinking the human as a site of human interdependency.

And I think when you walk into the coffee shop and you ask for assistance with the coffee cup, you’re basically posing the question: do we, or do we not live in a world in which we assist each other? Do we or do we not help each other with basic needs? And our basic needs are to be decided on as a social issue and not just my personal individual issue or your personal individual issue.

So there’s a challenge of individualism that happens at the moment in which you ask for assistance with the coffee cup and hopefully people will take it up and say, yes, I too live in that world in which I understand we need each other in order to address our basic needs and I want to organize a social political world on the basis of that recognition.”

Judith Butler in conversation with Sunaura Taylor in Examined Life



The cover image of the “Relaxed Performance: Exploring Accessibility in the Canadian Theatre Landscape” report. The background is black, and the text is white. The British Council and BIT logos are at the top. The photo is of Erin Ball, a performer with prosthetic legs, balancing on her hands on top of a wheelchair. She has tattoos on her arms, and is wearing a black body suit and looking directly at the camera.


We’re so excited that Relaxed Performance: Exploring Accessibility in the Canadian Theatre Landscape produced in collaboration with British Council Canada is now out in the world!

Relaxed Performance (RP) is an accessibility practice which “invites bodies to be bodies” in theatre spaces, including in their movement and vocalizations. RP also involves technical modifications, which were introduced in RP training sessions across Canada over the past several years.

The report was written by Andrea LaMarre, Carla Rice, and Kayla Besse. Check it out if you’re interested in how to make your arts and performance spaces more accessible:

Erin Ball performing on stage
Erin Ball performing at Cripping the Arts 2019 Photo credit: Michelle Peek


Working on the Visual Story Access Guide for Cripping the Arts this year taught be a lot about how we communicate about access. Just as important as making an event accessible is communicating effectively about this access plan. This means that we must communicate clearly and without any assumptions about the attendees prior experience and vocabulary around access. Many of the access features we are providing are new and innovative and so describing what they are – simply and clearly-  helps us develop a shared understanding and secures these new features as standard access practice.

Eliza Chandler

Screenshot of Art in Translation: A Digital Catalogue Series

Art in Translation (a project of Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology and Access to Life) serves to document and publish projects, exhibitions, artistic projects and research initiatives co-produced by Bodies in Translation and collaborating artists, scholars, and community members.

Using a digital platform, Art in Translation aims to provide artistic content in a range of accessible formats, including giving our readers the option to customize their viewing experience using a user interface tool designed by the Inclusive Design Research Centre at the Ontario College of Art and Design University.


The works in VibraFusionLab: Bridging Practices in Accessibility, Art and Communication specialize in the exploration of “vibrotactility” in technology, investigating it as a creative medium, with a capacity to combine visual, audio and tactile elements into a highly emotional and sensorial art practice. Viewers can expect wearable devices, and new approaches to art making that champion the senses beyond vision and hearing and to build new methods of communication and language. In considering accessible technologies as creative tools and mediums through VibraFusionLab the works of these seven artists explore the bridging of methods of communication and language and of interpreting or transforming one modality to another. They open the opportunity to engage in a multi-sensory approach and experimentation that allows for the transitioning and re-interpreting of content and experience from one medium to another.

Chair with cymbals suspended in air
Cymbalism, 2016 – 2017,  4 cymbals suspended in gallery with audio transducers attached; 2 audio amplifiers, 1 computer with audio interface


In the last year, I have found that organizations are employing access and inclusion in the same breath, and without distinction. To me, this is both a wonderful example of how consciousness of inclusion has grown to include access and accommodation, while simultaneously highlighting a lack of awareness about how access is not inclusion. The relationship between the two are undoubtedly intertwined, but so long as inclusion is perceived as an end goal or checklist, access cannot transcend its position as a logistical means rather than a cultural aesthetic. When the potentiality of access transcends compulsory able-bodiness, it can be mobilized to imagine alternative narratives where disability is not just tolerated but celebrated. Access means mobilizing a disability justice framework to dismantle notions of inclusion as more than just folding disabled people into an ableist arts ecology. As separate yet intertwined entities, I think it’s in the liminal space between access and inclusion that allows us to generate shifts in our arts and culture sector oriented towards a future with disability.

-Sean Lee, Programming Director, Tangled Art + Disability


Deaf and Disability Futures


Two people performing outside in front of a shipping container for small group of people.
Still from rehearsing Deathnastics performed at Bunker 2 Contemporary Art Container. Two people performing outside in front of a white shipping container with a small group of people sitting around them. The performers are putting chapstick on each other’s lips simultaneously.

>>from the RedLab Archives

“Accessibility is indeed a central significance (for disability studies) but as a concept and a set of practices that are always open to fresh and expansive interpretation and reinterpretation”

Kathryn Church

>>Artist in Residence: Alex Bulmer

Emerging from audio recorded walks between blind artist Alex Bulmer and storytellers who provided sighted guide, the artist ‘takes us by the arm’ to walk, listen, and share stories of place in this tactile installation.


Below is a recording of a live stream taken at Cripping the Arts 2019 on Day 2. The panelists are sitting in chairs on a stage facing the audience and having a conversation with the moderator facilitating and who sits on the far right of the panel. The panelists in order from left to right are: Annie Segarra, Aaron Labbé, Taeyoon Choi, and Syrus Marcus Ware with Elizabeth Sweeney moderating to the right.

“Creating access to art for non-normatively embodied people and opportunities for the public to engage with such art will expand understanding of non-normative vitality and advance social justice.”

– Excerpt from Arts Futures Series: Digital Transformation and Inclusive Design by Carla Rice & Tracy Tidgwell
Arts Futures was a summer seminar series co-hosted by Interactive Ontario and the Cultural Human Resources Council in Toronto and Ottawa.
A robotic hand with wires

Text on yellow background: What is linked open data?

We are thrilled to announce our collaborative partnership with Creative Users Projects. As research partners, we are working with Creative Users on a data initiative called Accessing the Arts that aims to amplify accessibility in Canada’s arts sector. Creative Users will be developing and using linked open data to develop a national arts listing that will impact how people discover, interact with and distribute information about the arts. We believe linked open data will help make information about accessibility in the arts more accurate and easier to find, help artists and organizations expand their reach to communities, and cultivate knowledge about access and innovate more accessible experiences for everyone in the arts.

Embodying the Intersections



From Disability Visibility Project

This episode features an interview with Jeff Thomas, an urban Iroquois photographer, artist, researcher, public speaker, and curator based in Ottawa, Ontario in Canada. Jeff will talk about racism, indigeneity, colonialism and how his photography re-contextualizes historical images of First Nations people. We also talk about how art weaves in the past, present, and future.


A portrait image of an Indigenous dancer
Kevin Haywahe, Assiniboine First Nation, 1990, pigment print on archival paper. By Jeff Thomas: “The photo I have attached is from my powwow portrait series ‘Strong Hearts.’ My aim is to take an iconic image of Indianness and invite each dancer to return the tourist gaze and open a conversation.”

>>from the RedLab Archives

“I’m learning that orienting to access is a powerful, iterative, and creative act. New ways of access allow people to express in ways not conventionally approved. In theatre and gallery spaces, for example, acknowledging different needs for spectators, be it wayfinding, movement, vocalization, or soft-spoken communication on what’s happening, creates as an important part of access, belonging and community that is viscerally felt during the performance or exhibit.“ 

Nadine Changfoot


Vanessa Dion Fletcher performing
A still image from Finding Language: A Scavenger Word Hunt performed at Cripping the Arts 2019. Artist Vanessa holds up a smart phone to take a photo of a meter attached to the wall. Photo credit: Michelle Peek

My experience with Cripping the Arts was illuminating, uncomfortable and a welcome insight into making and being a part of change and disruption. I often felt like my presence at the table was disruptive and I felt like both an insider and an outsider and negotiating this experience gave me grief and deep gratitude. Nowadays I’m thinking differently about what is possible and the transformation connected group work and more of what this can look since my time with CTA.

Loren Delaney

Em Glasspool performing
A photo of Em Glasspool performing in Wreck Wee Em, above. They have short dark hair and a bewildered expression. Em is wearing orange and white checked overalls and kneeling on a rug, which is part of the staged set that looks like a living room. Photo by Andy Carroll, from the dress rehearsal performance of Wreck Wee Em.

What does disability art mean to you?

A huge question. I am a theatre artist who deals with severe mental illness and addiction. Also, I am a theatre artist. Sometimes, often times really, my work deals with these themes, but not always. Although – can I ever really separate my life experience from my created original work? Dis*ability art to me – I keep creating art – sometimes, in the face of almost impossible adversity. Artists make art. Add to that dis*ability. Then, instead of seeing this as an impediment, celebrate the additional powerful message disability artists and art have to send.

A conversation with Em Glasspool, the founder of mysterious entity theatre in Peterborough, Ontario and Kayla Besse, Knowledge Mobilization at Bodies in Translation.


This year I have been working as an artist In Residence at OCAD University. One of my goals for the residency is “Unite Indigenous and disability communities to further develop a decolonial and accessible understanding of language and communication.” over the course of the residency I’ve been thinking about the ways that my artwork its self can or can not accomplish this goal and how my other efforts, programming, building relationships,  accessible curatorial practices ect can also accomplish this goal. 

-Vanessa Dion Fletcher, Artist in Residence at Bodies in Translation



“The more people that I talk to, the more clear it is that the resistance to fatness, the fear of fatness is governing every body, not just fat bodies.

We are in a moment where the need for relentless self discipline is absolute and so I don’t think I can actually understand any kind of identity or any kind of marker of activism without including an analysis of size.”

May Friedman

>>from the RedLab Archives


Over the past year, my perception has shifted towards seeing how insidiously ableism and saneism are embedded in the norm.  Where I – before – blamed myself almost entirely for being flawed and broken and crazy, I now am more aware of how entwined this is with the flaws, breaks and mania of my surroundings.  This shift comes with a mixture of sadness, relief, motivation and (as always) love.

Cyn Rosbaum, Executive Director, Tangled Art + Disability



The following is a list of compiled resources.

  • This toolkit was developed by the School of Media Studies and Information Technology at Humber College, Tangled Art + Disability and in collaboration with disability-identified, Mad and Deaf Humber students and artists.
  • These resources from ArtsBuild feature innovative ideas and solutions to support creative spaces such as galleries, museums, theatres and culture hubs in making their spaces more accessible.
  • The Deaf Artists & Theatres Toolkit by Cahoots Theatre Company serves as a resource and guide to increase innovative collaborations between professional theatre companies and Deaf artists as well as to increase engagement with Deaf audiences.
  • A great resource from Generator for the performing arts community in Canada. Generator has gathered tips, tricks, and best practices for producing live performance in Canada and put them together in one place. Check out their Accessibility section for resources to help make your performances accessible for artists and audiences, and more.
  • From large-scale film festivals to individual film screenings, this booklet by ReelAbilities Film Festival: Toronto will give you resources on accessibility for people with disabilities so the magic of cinema is available to everyone!

A warm thank you to those whose responses, images and artworks contributed this year: Sean Lee, Loren Delaney, Cyn Rosebaum, May Friedman, Vanessa Dion Fletcher, Alex Bulmer, Lara Kramer, Erin Ball, Michelle Peek, Jeff Thomas, Art Spin, Creative Users Projects, British Council, Tangled Art + Disability, Humber College, ArtsBuild, Cahoots Theatre, Generator, Red dress Productions and Reelabilities.